It’s a tough week to be in the Army. The Afghan National Army, that is. As the NYT times reports this afternoon, an independently run ANA mission this week has failed.
The operation began when the Afghan Army sent a battalion of about 300 men from the First Brigade, 201st Army Corps, into a village called Bad Pakh, in Laghman Province, which is adjacent to the troubled border province of Kunar. Their operation, which began on the night of Aug. 3, was to flush out Taliban in a rugged area where they had long held sway. First, using the Afghan Army’s own helicopters, a detachment was inserted behind Taliban lines, while the main part of the battalion attacked from the front.
But, according to a high-ranking official of the Afghan Ministry of Defense, the plan was betrayed; Taliban forces were waiting with an ambush against the main body of troops. Then the airborne detachment was cut off when bad weather grounded its helicopters…
As of yesterday, many members of the battalion are unaccounted for. It sounds like ISAF has stepped in to assist in recovery of the lost soldiers, though that certainly hasn’t been confirmed. On the one hand, it’s encouraging that the ANA had the confidence to undertake the mission; on the other, how devastating–and not particularly surprising–to learn that someone within passed information about the mission along to the Taliban.
As General Petraeus starts dancing around the timetable for troop reduction in Afghanistan (banked on that one) it seems as though there is a fine line between pushing the ANSF to act more independently and supporting them in their actions. But scenarios like this–resulting in betrayal, probable torture, and death–erode confidence and retard growth. We ain’t gonna get to more than doubling the existing 134k members of the ANSF when things go horribly wrong.
Somebody’s gotta clean house. But who’s it going to be, when Karzai can’t get his parliamentary act together and ISAF is trying to be more hands-off?